By Maria Halkias, The Dallas Morning News
The pandemic has only intensified the high-stakes grocery battle between retail behemoths Walmart and Amazon. They’ve seen the consumer appetite for convenience and they’re feeding it.
Walmart is now ready to launch an online annual subscription delivery service nationwide that it’s calling Walmart+ after testing it in Dallas and other cities.
For $98 a year, Walmart+ customers get unlimited deliveries of purchases of at least $35. Prices are the same as in the store and what’s available is basically the 160,000 items sold in a Supercenter.
Walmart’s e-commerce sales doubled during the pandemic and, if customers are going to continue to consolidate store shopping trips and shift more purchases online, it needed an offer to accommodate shoppers. Likewise, Amazon said its online grocery sales tripled during the second quarter vs. a year ago.
Walmart had a subscription program in 2016 but canned it. Shoppers are different now and the new program is a response to “a rapidly evolving customer,” said Janey Whiteside, Walmart’s chief customer officer.
She said it’s also not intended to be a “static benefit.”
“We will continue to leverage our scale” to add features, Whiteside said. “When you’re as big as Walmart, we can double down and try to get more share of wallet and share of mind of our existing customers.”
Amazon Prime, which costs $119 a year, includes free video, music and books.
While Walmart+ appears to be a direct answer to Amazon Prime, it also includes in-store shopping benefits. Walmart+ comes with an up to 5-cents-a-gallon discount to members who buy gasoline at almost 2,000 Walmart and Murphy branded fuel stations. That feature competes with major supermarket chains such as Tom Thumb and Kroger, which also offer gasoline perks.
Amazon is focused on stores with reports that it will bring Amazon Go cashierless checkout to its Whole Foods Market stores. Last week in Los Angeles, it opened its first Amazon Fresh store with a shopping cart technology that tracks purchases.
The Walmart+ program starts Sept. 15 and will include another in-store program that Dallas area shoppers have had for a while, Scan ‘n Go. Using the Walmart app, customers can scan their items while they shop and pay touch free using Walmart Pay in the app, which has the customer’s debit, credit or gift card stored.